Census Substitutes for Ireland

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Contributing Writer

Janet Wahlberg

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day so it seems appropriate that we continue our discussion on Irish Research. In February I talked about the Tithe Applotment and Griffith Tax records. There are a number of census substitutes that may be used to research in Ireland and I will describe a few of those in this month’s article.

The Valuation Revision Books continued from where the Griffith’s valuation left off and continue into the 20th century. These records were an attempt to create a uniform valuation of all lands and buildings that could be used for taxation. After the original Grifftith’s valuation, properties were valued annually from 1864 until the early 1930s and those doing the work recorded any change in the quality or dimensions of the properties, or in the names of occupiers or property owners, and any differences in the acreage and value. These changes were recorded in varying colors of ink and then dated. The data found in these records can be very helpful in tracking family events such as dates of death, sale or migration. The Valuation records have been digitized and are now online at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. You will need to first know the Townland that your family came from and then go to www.proni.gov.uk. After clicking the above link, click the magnifying glass at the right of the screen with the words “Search Valuation Revision Books” and follow the directions on the screens as they open.

In the early 20th century the Irish government began to provide old age pensions. The applicants were required to provide proof of their age. The problem with this was that many of them were born before the government began registering births. These folks used the 1841 and 1851 census records to prove their birth year, records that were lost in the fire at the Public Records Office as well as when the Irish government shredded earlier census records. While they may only represent a small portion of those that were listed in the 1841 and 1851 census records, it is another possible place to locate family. If you are fortunate enough to have an ancestor who applied for these old age pensions, you are fortunate indeed and can find these records at Family Search.

In addition to those listed above, there are many other census substitutes available. However, these records require a bit more patience and time. They may also require that you think a bit outside the preset notions that you may have about your ancestors. If however, you are able to move back another generation, it will all be worth it.

Some of the possible sources are: 1740: Protestant householders, 1766: Religious Survey, 1775: Dissenters’ petitions, 1790-1880: Official Papers, petitions, 1796: Spinning Wheel Premium Entitlement Lists, 1803: Agricultural censuses of Cos. Antrim and Down, 1831-1921: National School Records, Workhouse records, and 1876: Landowners in Ireland. This is by no means an exhaustive list. One way to find these records is to simply type the titles found above into your favorite search engine. Then take the time to read the explanation of what that group of records covers as this will save you from spending endless hours reading lists that are not pertinent to your research.

If you are successful in working back to the 17th Century, you will want to look at Muster Rolls and the Down Survey. These cover the lands that were part of the Plantation Settlements that I mentioned in earlier articles on Ireland.

Next month I plan to review some of the excellent resources located at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown and efforts by staff and volunteers to make those resources more easily accessible and user friendly to anyone doing family research.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.